Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Several young stars stand out in Trois-Rivieres

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Four young stars we’ve monitored over the years – Kenton Koch, Scott Hargrove, Stefan Rzadzinski and Kyle Masson – all had a very solid weekend up at the legendary Canadian street circuit in Trois-Rivieres this weekend, as a pair of IMSA championships held a standalone weekend north of the border.

Koch, driving for P1 Motorsports, won his fourth and fifth LMP3 races of the season driving a Ligier JS P3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda. The lanky Californian missed the season-opening weekend at Sebring but still holds a chance of overtaking Norma M30 driver Colin Thompson for the championship lead at the Road Atlanta season finale, to be held in October, although he still sits 18 points back.

Koch has finished first or second in all but one of his nine starts this season. Thompson has had one fewer first or second place results – a total of two wins and five runner-up finishes – but has been consistent and, additionally, banked 23 points on Koch from the off in Sebring in the first two races of the weekend. Koch won this championship two years ago in 2015 with JDC Motorsports, when the series was then known as IMSA Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda, and raced only the Elan DP02 open-top prototypes.

While Koch has raced in the LMP3 cars for most of this season, he had a new teammate this weekend in the form of Edmonton native Stefan Rzadzinski, who has a wealth of Trois-Rivieres experience and starred in a pair of completely different types of cars.

Rzadzinski, who made waves this year as a ROC Factor fan vote winner into the Race of Champions, promptly finished on the podium in LMP3 in both races in his debut (fifth and third overall), and first and fourth in a pair of Nissan Micra Cup races at the circuit. It was a banner weekend for the likable Canadian who’s driven occasionally in Korea this year, of all places.

Performance Tech Motorsports’ roll in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship PC class has been impressive to watch but so too has the roll of one of its drivers, Kyle Masson, in the Prototype Challenge series. Masson has dominated in the MPC class this year – the renamed class for the Elan DP02 prototype – has now sealed that class championship with one weekend to go at Road Atlanta.

Despite an “off weekend” where he won only one of two races in class, he holds a 76-point lead over Kris Wright with just two races remaining. Masson, who we profiled earlier this year and who also gets to race alongside his father Robert, will pull double duty with less pressure on him at Road Atlanta, between his MPC car and the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 in Petit Le Mans, in that car’s series signoff.

Like Rzadzinski, another Canadian who was an open-wheel prospect turned burgeoning sports car star is Vancouver’s Scott Hargrove, who continued his roll in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama with his ninth win in 10 races.

A weekend sweep of these two races, driving for Pfaff Motorsports, saw him extend his title lead to 22 points over Zacharie Robichon. The series concludes Labor Day weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and provided Hargrove maintains the same gap after race one of two there, he’ll win another Porsche GT3 Canada title – as he did in 2014 but came up just shy in 2015 (Chris Green won title) and 2016 (Daniel Morad).

Koch and Masson have already won Rolex 24 at Daytona races in the PC class each of the last two years, winning a Rolex watch at their first attempt, while Hargrove and Rzadzinski are two Canadians who’d dazzle in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship if given the opportunity. Either way, we’ll continue to monitor these drivers as they continue to develop and win races.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”